Assess the Role of Genes and Hormones in the Development of Gender

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Assess the role of hormones and genes in the development of gender Biological psychologists search for physical differences between men and women which may underpin gender difference. During the first six weeks there are no structural differences between the embryos of those who are genetically male and those who are genetically female. Between 4 – 6 weeks after conception sexual differentiation occurs whereby a gene on the 23rd chromosome instructs the gonads to release hormones. In the male embryo, the testes are instructed to release testosterone which acts on the hypothalamus, without this hormone the brain would develop in the female form. Clear differences can be seen in the brains of adult men and women, notably in the function and anatomy of the hypothalamus (Green 1995). Swaab and Fliers found evidence of an area in the brain known as the ‘sexually dimorphic nucleus’, located in the hypothalamus. Analysing 13 men and 18 women they found that the volume of the sexually dimorphic nucleus was 2.5 times larger in men with 2.2 times the number of cells. However there are limitations of this study, mainly the sample size. A sample size of only 31 participants is far too small for the results to be reliable; furthermore the results cannot be generalized to the rest of the population, thus decreasing the reliability of the results even further. This lack of reliability discredits the study, and with later studies contradicting this claim it is unclear whether the sexually dimorphic nucleus even exists and if it does whether there really are differences between genders. Another sex difference is the degree of lateralization in male and female brains. Shaywitz and Shaywitz used magnetic resonance imaging scans to examine the brain whilst men and women carried out language tasks, and found that whilst women used both hemispheres (language, speech and spatial skills), only the left was used by men (speech and language). Male and female babies are exposed to both...
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